Saturday 17 March 2018

Pisi pounces to give Northampton hope

Northampton 13 Castres 3

George Pisi of Northampton Saints
George Pisi of Northampton Saints

Northampton ended their Heineken Cup pool campaign with a victory over French champions Castres but it took them until the final minute to break down a ferocious visiting defence.

George Pisi scored the only try of a clash where Northampton's power game suffered an outage against Castres' muscle-bound blue line.

The win could still see Northampton reach the quarter-finals as one of the two best runners-up if results go their way, but the Amlin Cup seems more likely.

Castres came to Franklin's Gardens with no chance of reaching the quarter-finals but made just one change to the starting 15 that lost to Leinster, with Daniel Kirkpatrick coming in for Remi Tales at fly-half.

The home side looked for four tries from the start as they knew only five points and a pointless defeat for Leinster would see them top Pool 1. They turned down easy penalty chances in the opening minutes, but a series of scrums did not produce a try.

Castres thought they had taken the lead on 33 minutes when a quick line-out on halfway saw Remi Grosso scoot under the post, but referee Alain Rolland went to the TMO, who spotted they had used a different ball.

Stephen Myler gave the Saints the lead with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Marcel Garvey almost got Castres on the scoreboard, with a superb 30-metre break, but the former Worcester flyer slipped as he looked to step around Northampton's debutant full-back Fa'atoina Autagavaia. Rory Kockott levelled with a long-range penalty on 54 minutes.

Despite all their pressure, Northampton could not breach the French side's defence, but with four minutes to go smart play from Kahn Fotuali'i saw the replacement scrum-half throw a pass into replacement prop Mihaita Lazar's head and from the offside Myler slotted an easy penalty to make it 6-3.

And when Kockott was charged down by Pisi in his '22' the Samoan centre gleefully dived onto the bouncing ball to score the only try of the game in the final minute, which Glenn Dickson converted.

Irish Independent

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